Meeting in the middle

PFM discusses with FSI, developers of the Concept Evolution web-CAFM solution, and QED, how they collaborated to ensure the most efficient use of workspace.

They are familiar scenarios in many organisations: you're interrupted mid-presentation by an angry colleague, adamant they booked the meeting room for the top of the hour and that you're overrunning.  Or you arrive at your designated room, only to find somebody else's meeting in full swing.  Or your team is spotted wandering from one room to another because they can't find the location they were told to attend.

Managing meeting rooms is a constant challenge for any FM department or service provider with responsibility for ensuring the most efficient and streamlined use of workspaces.  Thanks to a creative partnership between CAFM software developer FSI and resource booking technology speciality QED, it is a challenge that's now been met by integrating the room-booking modules in FSI's Concept Evolution CAFM platform with QED's latest front-end booking and workspace management information system.

This collaboration is said to improve the end-user experience - QED technology is linked back to Concept so the user can be confident that they are booking a room in real-time based on the latest status and availability - and enables more efficient management of resources.

"Normally with Concept, rooms are booked for a period - half a day or a full day - but as far as the end-user is concerned, that's just the beginning," says Kevin Shipp, General Manager, Channel Partners, at FSI.

"They might find themselves walking along a string of meeting rooms, unsure of which one they're supposed to be in, knocking on doors and interrupting other people's sessions.  By integrating Concept with QED's best-in-class workspace management system, we've given users the ability to interact with room-booking information in real-time via a comprehensive range of platforms."

QED's platforms consist of several products that give real-time visibility on the status and occupancy of meeting spaces.  The Qsign Meeting Schedule Display, for example, is a departure board that displays a list of meetings and locations, customisable to specific zones and floors or complete buildings, and is suitable for reception areas.  In the rooms themselves, QED's Room Screens display the status of the space and can be used to check-in and check-out, and extend bookings - again, in real-time.

The QKiosk Floor Plan Kiosk displays real-time floor maps including room status, and allows interactive user access for instant booking and amendment, and check-in and check-out facilities, which is suitable for foyers, lobbies and lift areas where people will be looking for directions.

And the Qubi is an interactive light cube, which provides 360-degree visibility of workspace status, at a glance, using red and green LED's.  It can be configured to have auto-presence detection, returning the room's status to available after a period of inactivity.  It is also, FSI says, a powerful tool for managing overrunning meetings: a fading red signal lets everybody know when their booking is coming to an end and encourages them to finish on time - more difficult to ignore than an alert on a display monitor or a tablet.

QED's open approach to hardware means the technology supports a range of screens.  Like the hardware, the software interface is fully customisable to corporate branding requirements.

Thanks to the tight integration between Concept and QED's ResourceXpress system, room availability is constantly updated.  If nobody checks into a room that has been booked, it will automatically return to the pool of available spaces, minimising the impact of no-shows for administrators.  A room immediately becomes available once the user has checked out.

"Integrating the two systems was an exciting challenge and now, with a two-way connector between Concept and ResourceXpress, the information is updated every 60 seconds," says Ian Fisher, Managing Director at QED.  "Other solutions depend on synchronisation, which can cause delays in updating the data - so users might not be given the latest information about availability and room status."

"The integrated systems capture a very accurate picture," he adds.  "It's all about maximising the use of rooms, passing back real utilisation data to Concept so organisations can generate actual utilisation plans rather than always relying on planned reports which don't reflect the actual situation at any given time."